“Life comes from trusting in Christ, not through jumping through the hoops”
The room is dimly lit and the two players hold their final card close to their chests, neither giving anything away. The final trick will decide who walks away with the winnings – it could go either way. The atmosphere is electric. Ted confidently leans forward and lays his card. The Ace of Diamonds. Ted is sure it cannot be beaten. But Bob’s expression does not waver. He slowly moves his card from his right hand to his left hand – and then back to the right. Slowly he places the card face up on the table. The Two of Hearts. “Hearts are trumps” he announces as he picks up his winnings and walks out of the pub, leaving Ted flabbergasted.
! PAUL’S TRANSFORMATION
Our first reading St Paul’s letter to the Philippians
personal account of a total transformation in his viewpoint.
starts – listing his religious credentials. read v5-6.
Paul the Jew as a young man, these must have seemed like the ace of diamonds.
Not only had he ticked all the boxes in terms of his ancestry / family background.
Also proved his religious zeal and commitment through his actions.
But by the time Paul is writing this letter, his perspective has changed completely. The religious credentials he has listed, the ace of diamonds he prized so highly, is actually seen to be worthless in comparison with the two of hearts.
And what is the two of hearts, the trump card? St Paul’s answer in these verses is “knowing Jesus Christ”
Read verses 7-8.
Knowing Jesus Christ personally is the trump card that outweighs anything.
! OUR RELIGIOUS CREDENTIALS
I think this passage is particularly challenging for those of us who are used to coming to church. Because like St Paul we often have a long list of religious credentials, and the danger is we see them as the be all and end all:
my own list: baptised as a baby, confirmed age 12, been going to church all my life, ordained, all the right clothes.
Danger is I might think I’ve done quite well for myself. If we take St Paul seriously then all of those things are completely worthless unless we know Christ personally. TAKE stole off.
I wonder…your list of credentials: PCC, Deanery Synod, Christian aid collector, coffee rota, run a stall at the church fete, try to visit people when they’re sick.
not bad things to do, but unless you are know Christ, they won’t help you to get closer to God, and they won’t buy you a ticket to heaven either.
! WE NEED SOMEONE TO SAVE US
might seem harsh but actually good news:
Imagine yourself at the bottom of the grand canyon trying to get to the top.
Nothing but your own resources.
Few loose rocks – gather them up. Pile. effort.
Hard as you can for hours. When a helicopter lands beside you. Pilot invites.
Climb in exhausted.
Couple of minutes later, standing at the top. Look over, barely even see the rocks you were piling up. Realise you could never have made it up to the top without someone coming to save you.
Message of this passage.
key verse v9: “Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.”
Eternal life comes not from jumping through a series of hoops, but comes through trusting in Christ our Saviour.
We’d never be able to jump through all the hoops, Christ comes to save us celebrate his salvation this Easter death and resurrection.
! SOMEONE TO LEAD US HOME
Leave you with one final example.
Standing in a wood night time. Pitch dark. You need to make your way to an unlit house about a mile away, but you have no idea which direction it’s in.
You did have time to scribble down some rough directions.
But batteries in torch flat.
No idea which direction.
Left to your own devices- long and cold night.
But then you hear someone’s footsteps at your side.
“Who is it?” you whispher
“A friend” comes the reply. “Put your hand in mine and I’ll lead you where you need to go.”
So you do you put your hand in his, and he leads you to exactly where you need to be.
And that’s the importance of knowing Christ and having faith in Christ.
We need someone to lead us home and he is the only one who can.
You might say well, I haven’t had a Damsacus road conversion like St Paul.
That doesn’t matter. It’s not about having a blinding flash of light.
What matters is that rather than relying on your own efforts, you take hold of Jesus’ outstretched arm, put your trust in him, and let him lead you to where you need to be.